Students Weigh In on Future Plans

Local businesses scout employees at the job fair

A job fair held last month at Stone Harbor Resort in Sturgeon Bay drew more than 500 local high school students and highlighted 43 local businesses. 

Those included manufacturers, medical providers, restaurants, hotels, banks, government agencies and chain businesses. The Door County Economic Development Corporation, Northeast Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Program and CESA 7 organized the fair.

Although the cross section of businesses represented at the fair was diverse, many shared both a staffing shortage and one of its causes: a lack of affordable housing. The housing situation has caused some businesses to deprioritize attracting workers from other areas in favor of attracting local employees. 

“We really want locals because of the housing issue,” said Paul Krause, co-owner of Fish Creek’s Kettle Black Fish Boil. “We’re here to get summer employees, but we’re hoping to get people to stick around for multiple seasons.”

When asked what sort of employees the attending businesses were scouting for – part-time, full-time or summer staff – the large majority of employers answered, “All of the above.”

“We’ll take pretty much whatever kind of workers we can get,” said John Olson of Door County Emergency Services.

Erica DeFere and John Olson represented Door County Emergency Services at the job fair. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

In addition to finding staff, employers also attended the job fair to:

• Inform young people about the varied roles available in their company or organization. Employers such as Door County Medical Center (DCMC) need more than nurses, and companies such as Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding need more than factory workers. 

“We need engineers; we need people in the back office; we need people in HR [human resources],” said Wendy Roksvold, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s talent acquisition lead.

• Make students aware of the training and learning opportunities the business offers. For example, Fincantieri, DCMC, Marine Travelift and Therma-Tron-X all promoted their youth apprenticeship programs, and other employers discussed their on-site training opportunities and continuing-education assistance.

• Improve public opinion about jobs and working. After the pandemic triggered a nationwide exodus of EMS staff, for example, Olson of Door County Emergency Services wanted to remind young people of the benefits of the job, including flexible hours, high pay and state benefits.

“A lot of people think of the job as really stressful, and it is,” Olson said. “But we want to reinforce what makes the job great.”

An ongoing struggle to find staff drew several employers to attend the job fair for the first time, but others had been attending fairs like this for years because they’d had luck in the past. 

Therma-Tron-X was one such employer. Casey Bieri, its human resources specialist, named several employees who had graduated from, or are currently attending, local high schools; and Michelle Waldinger, the human resources director at Marine Travelift, did the same. 

“We usually come away with a success story from every fair we attend,” Waldinger said.

We spoke with roughly 30 students who attended the job fair to learn why they were there and what they planned to do with their lives after high school. Their reasons for attending the fair varied, but those who expressed a desire to leave Door County after high school gave two similar reasons: There are few opportunities on the peninsula to explore their chosen field, and they have a desire to live in a larger city.

Here’s what the students had to say.

Photos by Rachel Lukas

Junior Cora Carrier plans to work at Fish Creek’s Skyway Drive-in Theatre this summer. After high school, she hopes to leave Door County to pursue a career in music.

Junior Vanessa Demarinis already has three jobs, so she thought of the fair as a networking opportunity rather than a way to get another job. After high school, she wants to go to college to study journalism and later return to Door County for vacations.

Sophomore Dallas Ellingson attended the job fair looking for employment and was interested in a position either in the trades or with Target. After high school, Ellingson is interested in tech school or the military.

Junior Cooper Gaddes has an apprenticeship at Sister Bay’s Yacht Works, which he plans to continue next year. After high school, he’s considering taking classes at a local branch of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Junior Rebecca Porter plans to work at Fish Creek’s Parkwood Lodge this summer, but she said she was keeping her eye out for other job opportunities at the fair. After high school, she’d like to go to college to study journalism.

Sophomore Noah Adler worked at Baileys Harbor Cornerstone Pub last summer and may do the same this summer. After high school, he isn’t sure what he wants to do, but he does want to move away from Door County.

Sophomore MaKensie McLain has three jobs: two cleaning positions and one with Jimmy John’s. McLain doesn’t yet have plans for after high school but wants to leave Door County.

Sophomore Louis Riveradías isn’t currently working, but he plans to become a designer or join the Army after graduating. He was scoping out potential future jobs at the fair.

Sophomore Rubi Jauregui cleans rental properties and doesn’t yet have post–high school plans.

Sophomore Bridget Tepe works at Coyote Roadhouse and doesn’t yet have plans for after high school.

Sophomore Sam Bass works at Sister Bay’s CHOP, but she checked out new job opportunities at the fair. Bass is considering becoming a tattoo artist after high school and may stick around Door County while she’s training.

Sophomore Isabel Soriano works at CHOP in Sister Bay, as well as Rowleys Bay Resort, but she was still keeping her eye out for jobs that sound fun or interesting. After high school, she wants to go into psychology.

Sophomore Lydia Massey works for her mother’s house-cleaning business. She doesn’t yet have plans for after high school but wants to leave Door County.

Junior Aidan Rice has a welding position at Death’s Door Marine and plans to continue with that after graduating from high school.